History lessons would have taught us that the Silk Road or Silk Route is an ancient network of trade and cultural transmission routes through regions of the Asian continent connecting the West and East from China and India to the Mediterranean Sea. The route is approximately 10,000 kilometres long.
The Silk Route in Sikkim is an offshoot of the ancient trade route which came from Lhasa, crossing Chumbi Valley and passing through Nathula to finally reach the port of Tamluk in West Bengal. This portion of the Old Silk Route through Bhutan, East Sikkim and West Bengal measures about 900 kilometers. Interestingly, silk was not the most treasured item traded in this part of the route – it was horses, wool and tea.
A seven-day trip on this off-beat route passing through East Sikkim is a must-do on the list of travellers who love the mountains, enjoy treks through dense forests, want to see glacial lakes once in their lifetime, and of course, appreciate the beauty of quaint villages that one passes along the way.
Day 1: Land at Bagdogra Airport and drive to Aritar, on the far eastern border of Sikkim and bounded by Mt. Kanchendzonga.
Day 2: Hike to the Pangolakha Wildlife Sanctuary which is linked to the forests of Bhutan and Neora Valley National Park of West Bengal, making it a biodiversity hotspot. Pass through dense temperate forests and head to Phusrey Lake, which is considered holy by the locals. Known for its spirituality and placidity, the one unique feature of this lake is the “Half Drowned Tree”, which lies in the middle of the lake, half-submerged into the water for decades but neither growing nor decaying. On the way back visit Mankhim village.
Day 3: A long walk from Aritar to Rongli via the old horse trail used by traders when the trade route between India and Tibet was open, takes one past scenic villages. Drive to Padamchen passing through the villages of Dalapchand, Rongli and Lingtam. Phadamchen village lies on the foothills of Eastern Himalayas, surrounded by dense forest. Bird watchers can sight the Laughing Thrush, Fulvetta, Honey Buzzard, Steppe Eagle and Babble. And if the day is clear the hilly slopes of Kalimpong, Pedong, Regu, Pakyong and Gangtok can also be sighted.
Day 4: Drive up the famous winding roads of the Silk route to Nathang valley, via the hamlets of Zuluk and Lungthung- Dhupi Dara. Stop over at Thambi view point and catch a magnificent sunrise unfold over Mt. Kanchendzonga. Arrive at Nathang in the afternoon. Nathang Valley is a high altitude plateau located at 13,500 feet above sea level and flanked by mountains on all sides. Hike across Alpine terrain to the Eagle Nest bunker, an abandoned Army Bunker perched on a strategic point giving a complete 360 degree unhindered view of the Eastern Himalayas. The whole range of Mt. Kanchendzonga and the distant peaks of the Tibetan plateau, China, Western Bhutan, plains of Bengal with towns like Darjeeling and mighty Brahmaputra River surrounds the valley.
Day 5: Drive to Kupup, a small settlement close to Jelepla Pass. On reaching Kupup, walk to the nearby Elephant Lake. Locally called Bitan Cho, it is one of the most sacred lakes of Sikkim, with high mountains and valleys bordering it. Owing to its resemblance to elephant, the Kupup Lake has been named Elephant Lake. Drive to Tsomgo Lake via Baba Mandir andMememchoLake. And if the weather permits drive to Nathula on the Indo- China border. Finally drive to Gangtok in the evening.
Day 6: Visit the Rumtek monastery, the seat of the Karmapa. This magnanimous monastery houses a monastic school, a huge library and two big temples containing many rare artefacts and scriptures of the Karma Kagyu sect of Buddhism. Visit the Namgyal Research Institute of Tibetology, a museum on Buddhism and its advent into Sikkim. Stroll through Lal Bazaar buying souvenirs.
Day 7: Drive back to Bagdogra airport.
This is one holiday that offers lessons in history, culture, nature and commerce!
Check www.kipepeo.in for more.
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